Curiosity is a killer. I have mapped the w-space constellation to be our static wormhole connecting to a system with two dying wormholes, where the only adventure to be found is that of getting isolated, which doesn't appeal to me that much. But in the process of collapsing our wormhole I see core probes appear in the neighbouring system, which then disappear after I get an interceptor ready to ambush whoever is scouting, only to reappear when I get tired of waiting and throw another Orca through the wormhole. I am about to give up for the night when I instead think it a good idea to take my scanning Tengu strategic cruiser back to the class 3 w-space system to see what's really going on.
Returning to the C3 has only one probe visible on my directional scanner, which baffles me. The system is tiny, a mere 7·5 AU across, which means that any scanning probes that are actually resolving signatures will be visible to d-scan from anywhere in the system. And now there are four probes to be seen. This is weird, particularly as there is no ship to accompany what is only reasonably explained by the launching of probes. There is little point in hiding core scanning probes, which these are, out of the system, as they won't pick up new contacts in ships, regardless of whether or not the ships can see the probes themselves. I can't understand what's happening.
I reconnoitre the two wormholes I resolved, and both are still alive. The K162 from class 2 w-space and static exit to high-sec empire space—well, Aridia—survive, even if they are both quite wobbly indeed. Maybe the scout is from the C2 and is expecting this C3's static connection to die soon, before their own wormhole does. Or maybe a new K162 has opened in to this C3. Either way, it's worth my scanning again to make sure. I launch my combat probes and blanket the system, revealing the same four anomalies and eleven signatures as earlier. There are no new connections to be found. So where is the scout from, and what's he scanning for?
There she is. A simple Probe frigate appears a hundred kilometres from the C2 K162, before warping away. A Probe! That's what was scaring me from continuing to throw the industrial command ship through our wormhole to collapse it. Well, kind of. I saw a Nemesis stealth bomber buzzing around too, and it's generally better to assume the worst than carry on regardless. For all I knew, the Nemesis knew what I was doing and called in a scout to find our wormhole before I could finish over-stressing it. But now I know it's only a Probe—unafilliated, probably with no support, and a frigate that cannot warp cloaked—I am keen to catch it and release some frustration on its bolts and rivets. The only problem with this plan is that I have no idea where the ship warped to.
I try to scan for the Probe's position, which my combat probes allow me to do, but the frigate disappears. Cloaked, jumped, I don't know, but the pilot's still on-line. And the Probe is back on d-scan. I catch another glimpse of the ship, this time sitting on top of the exit to high-sec. I get to the wormhole just in time to see the Probe warp away again, and I have a second attempt at resolving its hiding position. Got her! A few seconds before the frigate cloaks I have a solid hit on its position, letting me warp in and bookmark her safe spot. But how did she get all the way up here?
I sit and wait in the safe spot along with, presumably, the Probe. After a while it reappears, a couple of kilometres from me, and... does nothing. I like that. Because of the sensor recalibration delay my Tengu will suffer when decloaking I pretty much need a sitting duck if I'm to catch my target. Seeing the Probe just sitting there I grasp at the opportunity, and end up clutching hard vacuum. I decloak and start to lock on to the ship, but only for it to warp away before I can prevent it. That was bad timing, and must have given away my knowledge of this safe spot.
The Probe warped to the exit to high-sec, and I follow. There's not much I can do when a ship can simply exit w-space to be safe, but I am keen to see what happens next. She cloaks, that's what. At least, I think that's what, but I turn out to be wrong. I wait on the wormhole and watch for the next move, and am surprised to hear the wormhole flare. It seems another visitor has braved a dying wormhole to explore w-space, until the same Probe decloaks and warps away. I suppose I didn't get here in time to see her jump out before, but at least I stayed to see her return. And she appears to have warped to the same safe spot as before, so I turn my Tengu around and go back there myself.
Sure enough, the Probe is back where I missed it the first time, only now we are both on top of each other. I try to decloak only to find that our proximity has already shed my cloak, which also means the Probe can't hide. That happy coincidence has soaked up the sensor recalibration time too, and I gain a positive target lock pretty much as soon as my warp engines cut out. Now it's a simple matter to destroy the fragile frigate with the might of my strategic cruiser, almost to the point where I feel a little guilty for using overwhelming force. Almost, but not quite. I pop the ship and aim for the ejected pod, clearly feeling no regrets, but it gets clear.
I loot and shoot the wreck of what little was both fitted and survived the explosion, before chasing the pod a little around this C3. I don't hold much hope of catching it, as it is easily agile to warp away from a spot before my Tengu can come to a halt next to it, but I find two more safe spots as my probes pursue the pilot. It makes me wonder why the pilot went back to the safe spot I found her Probe in if she had others available. Maybe she honestly missed seeing me decloak next to her the first time, after entering warp. Or maybe it is such a good safe spot, perhaps the location of a collapsed wormhole, that it was the automatic first choice. Whatever the reason, I don't catch the pod, seeing the last of it as it exits to Aridia through the still-dying wormhole. That's okay. I may not have got to collapse our wormhole to look for adventure but I ended up having a little game of cat-and-mouse anyway, and getting a kill out of it too.